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108a - Heseiba

  • Rav Ezra Bick


            Last week, the section we learned was aggada. In fact, most of the gemara to the end of this chapter consists of aggada. I suggested last week that you learn it on your own. This is not because there is not what to discuss. On the contrary, the aggada raises many issues that deserve extended discussion. However, that is not actually our purpose in this shiur. The actual understanding of the aggada was not particularly difficult, and therefore I left it to you. A shiur on aggada is a different thing entirely than the usual learning of Talmud, and I decided that this is not the proper place for it. I did want you to see what a page of aggada is like, since it is an essential part of the Talmud. But we shall not be continuing this course in that direction.


            Basically, we have more or less finished the halakhic material dealing with the seder night in this chapter of Pesachim. In order to complete our understanding, we are going to see a few sections that appeared earlier in the chapter, which deal with the four cups of wine and some related topics.


            We are turning to 108a. The first mishna of the tenth chapter prohibited eating on the afternoon before the seder. The mishna stated that "even a poor man in Israel shall not eat until he reclines" (99b). "Reclining" here refers to the eating of the seder meal at night, and this serves as the introduction for the discussion of the gemara concerning the requirement to recline when performing the mitzvot of the seder.


            The webpage for this week's shiur is at:


            Once again I remind you to try and follow in the original text, either with your own volumes or on the webpage. You can follow with my English translations, but unless you are totally unable to read the Hebrew and Aramaic, you should try and use the original as the primary text.


            We are on 108a, line 16, after the first colon. The section begins with a citation from the mishna to which the subsequent discussion of the gemara will relate.


Even a poor man in Israel shall not eat until he reclines.


We learned:

Matza requires reclining; maror does not require reclining.

Wine - we learned in the name of Rav Nachman that it requires reclining,

And we learned in the name of Rav Nachman that it does not require reclining.

And there is no disagreement - this one concerns the first two cups and this one concerns the last two cups.

Some say it this way and some say it the other way.

Some say it this way:

The first two cups require reclining, because now is when the freedom begins;

The last two cups do not require reclining, because what is past is past.

And some say it the other way:

On the contrary - the last two cups require reclining, for that is the time of freedom;

The first two cups do not require reclining, since he is still saying, "we were slaves" ("avadim hayinu").

Now that we learned this way and we learned that way, both of them require reclining.


            It is clear from the considerations cited in deciding which cups of wine require reclining that the obligation to recline is connected to the concept of freedom. Rashi explains the difference between matza and maror accordingly.



"Matza tzricha heseiba"

Matza requires reclining - like free men, as it commemorates the redemption.

"Maror ein tzarich heseiba"

Maror does not require reclining - as it commemorates the slavery.


            There are a number of foods eaten at the seder. We know, from the mishna of Rabban Gamliel (116b) that we learned three weeks ago, that matza commemorates the bread that the Jews ate when they left Egypt, and maror commemorates the bitterness of the enslavement. Eaten when reclining is the manner of free men, and there is an obligation to eat the Pesach foods in a manner that reflects their meaning. Hence, Matza, which represents the freedom from Egypt, is eaten while reclining, while maror, which represents the slavery, is not. The obligation of reclining fits in perfectly with what we saw in the continuation of that mishna, that the seder is meant to be a recreation of the experience of the exodus. In order to experience the freedom, we eat, where appropriate, in the manner of free men. The mannerism is familiar to us from the Roman custom, but it was a natural way for the sages as well to demonstrate freedom.


            The question the gemara asks and debates refers to the obligation to drink four cups of wine on the seder night. Does the symbolism of the wine require reclining? Concerning the four cups of wine we have no explicit statement of their meaning, as we do for matza and maror (and the pesach sacrifice). Obviously, though, they do not commemorate the slavery or affliction.


            The gemara's discussion arises from contradictory statements, both attributed to the teaching of Rav Nachman. In order to avoid the undesirable conclusion that there is a contradiction in the transmission of what Rav Nachman really said, the gemara distinguishes between the first two and the last two cups. The distinction is based on the time within the seder that they are drunk. Yet, the very idea of a distinction implies that there is no one symbolism for the wine in all its appearances.


            The explanation of this phenomenon is that unlike matza and maror, which are eaten as an independent action, wine accompanies something else. Each of the four cups of wine accompanies a recitation or a blessing. This is the traditional role of wine - kiddush, havdala, the blessings of betrothal and marriage, and other blessings are recited over a cup of wine. On the seder night as well, each of the cups accompanies a given recitation - kiddush, the narration of the exodus, the grace after meals, and the hallel. There is a clearly an additional aspect which consists of having four cups of wine, as we clearly state in the "ma nishtana" and in the mishna on which we are presently commenting. But each cup has a particular place within the seder, and it therefore assumes the character of that place within the seder.


            What then is the dispute in the gemara, whether the first two or the last two cups should be recited while reclining? Examine the reasons given in the gemara and formulate the two opinions concerning the symbolism of freedom inherent in reclining. I shall wait a few minutes while you get your answers ready.




            It is clear from the reasoning given in the gemara that the two opinions are debating whether we wish to symbolize the STATE of freedom or the PROCESS of going to freedom. The first two cups (kiddush and the exodus) are parallel to the exodus itself, the transformation from slavery to freedom. On the other hand, a component in the movement from slavery to freedom is the slavery itself (we recite "we were slaves in Egypt"). The last two cups are recited when freedom is a fact of life - after completion of the festive meal (birkat hamazon) and when singing the song of praise (hallel). The person is fully free now. On the other hand, the experience of becoming free is already in the past ("what is past is past").


            I hesitate to place too great a burden on this brief dispute in the gemara, but it would seem that this is a basic disagreement about what we should be experiencing during the haggada - freedom, as a state, or redemption, as a process in which we are found. Since we have already seen that the experience of the seder is the aim of the entire ritual, this is a very important dispute, one that I suspect applies to much more than just the seder night. But we are getting too close to the line that separates halakha from philosophy, and I leave it to you to complete this line of thought.


            The conclusion of the gemara is that since we have two opinions, and no way to prefer one over the other, we should recline for all four cups. Although this is done in order to avoid deciding between the two opinions, the outcome is that we celebrate both of the two meanings of freedom.


            Now let us look at a short Tosafot on this ruling.


Tosafot s.v. "kulhu"

(The word "kulhu" does not appear in our text of the gemara, but the Tosafot is clearly referring to the last line of the section quoted above.)

All of them require reclining - all four cups require reclining when being drunk. It deserves investigation to see if one forgot and did not recline, should he return and drink again. And also, if he did not recline for the fourth cup, can he drink, return and drink while reclining, even though one (is not permitted) to drink between the third and fourth cup.


            What is the question of Tosafot? There is one question underlying the two points he raises; i.e., Tosafot has one theoretical question, with two examples of the halakhic ramifications. What is that theoretical question?




            Tosafot wants to know if reclining is an independent mitzva. In other words, when one drinks a cup of wine while reclining, does one fulfill two distinct halakhic obligations - to drink, and to recline? Or, is reclining the halakhically-mandated manner to fulfill fully the requirement to drink, and the two are interdependent? If the two are independent, than even though one has not reclined, one has fully fulfilled the requirement to drink. Hence, there is no way that the obligation to recline can now be fulfilled, since it must be done while drinking the particular cup. Since the cup has been drunk, it would be meaningless to drink another. On the other hand, if reclining is the prescribed manner to drink a cup of wine, then if it was omitted, the halakhic requirement to drink has not been fulfilled and one can drink another cup and recline. The second cup has the status of one of the four cups (since the previous drinking did not fulfill the obligation), and one can therefore recline and now fully and properly fulfill the obligation to drink while reclining.


            Similarly, although it is forbidden to drink an ADDITIONAL cup of wine between the third and fourth, if reclining is a condition of the proper fulfillment of the third cup, then where one has not reclined, one has not yet drunk the third cup. Hence the repeated drinking is not an ADDITIONAL cup, but is in reality the third.


            I will leave to Rav Kahn to elaborate on this point. As you will see in the section from his shiur that will come at the end of the shiur, he also interpreted Tosafot differently.




            Back to the gemara. We know WHEN to recline, but how is it done?


Pirkadan is not considered reclining.

Reclining on the right is not considered reclining, and what is more, there is a danger that his trachea will precede his esophagus and he will be endangered.


            What does the word "pirkadan" mean? On the extreme left-hand side of the printed page we have the commentary of Rabbeinu Chananel (the Rach). This is the oldest Talmudic commentary easily accessible. The Rach explains the word "pirkadan" as "lying on his back. And some say, on his face."


            The Rashbam (s.v. "pirkadan") simply states "his face upward, and lying on his back." The reason to prefer the Rashbam's explanation rather than the second one in the Rach is given in the Tosafot (s.v. "pirkadan"):


Pirkadan - his face upward, and not like he who explained that his face is downward, for it is not normal to eat in this way.


            What is wrong with reclining on the right. The gemara states that it is not considered reclining, and then adds that it is also dangerous, as the food might inadvertently enter the windpipe. This implies that the original statement, "Reclining on the right is not considered reclining" is not based on danger, which is an additional reason. The Rashbam explains:


Reclining on the right is not considered reclining - since he needs his right hand to eat.


            (Actually, Rashi explained that the danger of food entering the windpipe refers to pirkadan and not to reclining on the right. Apparently, he did not believe that merely reclining to one side could be dangerous. However, the simple reading of the text implies that this statement is an additional reason for not reclining on the right. The Rashbam argues with Rashi, his grandfather, about this point. Take a look: Rashi s.v. "shema" and Rashbam s.v. "shema".)


            We will stop at this point. The gemara continues by discussing WHO is obligated to recline. That is where we will begin next week.


Before we end, a short section from the shiur of Rav Yair Kahn that relates to the section we learned today.


Pesachim shiur

Rav Yair Kahn

The gemara requires one to recline (haseiva) on Pesach night while eating the matza and drinking TWO of the four cups of wine. However, the gemara is unable to resolve definitively whether it is the FIRST two cups of wine which should be drunk while reclining, or the LAST two and, therefore, requires haseiva for ALL four so as to cover both possibilities.

If one failed to recline while drinking any one of the four cups, Tosafot question whether or not an additional cup must be drunk correctly so as to fulfill the obligation. The doubt of Tosafot may be explained on the basis of the gemara's uncertainty regarding which two cups require haseiva. If so, one who ate matza without haseiva would certainly be required to consume a further quantity of matza while reclining. In fact, the Rosh rules this way explicitly.

(Note: This is different than the explanation given in the shiur above. Rav Kahn is suggesting that Tosafot is convinced that reclining is a condition of drinking; however, he is uncertain, following the gemara, which of the cups in reality requires reclining. - eb)

Underlying the opinion of Tosafot and the Rosh is the assumption that haseiva is NOT a mitzva in and of itself. Rather, it is an essential COMPONENT of the mitzvot of eating matza and the wine (to the extent that lack of the required haseiva invalidates the performance of these two mitzvot). In other words: One is not required to recline on the first night of Pesach - he is obligated to eat matza and drink the cups of wine WHILE reclining.

Both the Rosh and Tosafot view the requirement of haseiva as a QUALIFICATION of the obligation to eat matza and drink wine and NOT as a SEPARATE requirement. One must eat matza and drink two of the cups of wine in a fashion that demonstrates freedom. Consequently, the requirement of haseiva is RESTRICTED to the mitzvot of matza and wine and one need not recline at any other stage of the Pesach seder.

The Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz u-Matza 7:7) in contra-distinction, does NOT limit haseiva to eating matza and drinking wine and requires one to recline during the ENTIRE meal. (Special emphasis, however, is placed on the matza and wine since they are the essential ingredients of the seder.) This would seem to indicate that haseiva is NOT intrinsically connected to the mitzvot of matza and the cups of wine.

Furthermore, the Rambam does not mention haseiva while discussing the mitzva of matza in chapter six. Rather, it is dealt with in chapter seven, within the context of the obligation to view (or show) ourselves as if we personally were redeemed from Egypt. Based on the above, R. Yitzchak Soloveitchik zt"l concludes that according to the Rambam, haseiva is an INDEPENDENT obligation to act in a manner which indicates freedom. This is connected, perhaps, with the general mitzva of sipur yetzi'at Mitzrayim (which was introduced by the Rambam in chapter seven). Accordingly, we are obligated not only to tell the story VERBALLY, but to ACT it out as well.

The Me'iri takes this idea a step further and claims that the obligation of haseiva for the wine does not relate only to the actual DRINKING of the wine. In addition, one must recline while RECITING the portion of the haggada upon which those cups were instituted. For instance, haseiva during the second cup, obligates reclining during the ENTIRE maggid section of the haggada and not only while drinking the wine. Clearly, this opinion is conceptually consistent with that of the Rambam, as opposed to the Rosh and Tosafot.